Album: Tales of the Frost
Release date: 13 October 2017
Label: Lighten Up Sounds
01. I Found Them Buried in the Ice
02. Demented and Lost in the White Plain
03. There’s Something Out There, In the Middle of the Winter Night
04. Ten Thousand Footsteps in the Snow
05. The Iced Plateau
06. The Tombstone Under the Aurora Borealis
Lighten Up Sounds‘ recent release, Tales of the Frost, is the latest by up and coming dungeon synth artist Friedrich Curwenius of Argentina. In March of this year, Lighten Up Sounds released Curwenius’ first album Tunnels Under the Forest, under the moniker of Goblintropp. Now his latest release, Tales of the Frost, takes his dungeon synth style into a totally different territory, often transcending that genre itself, with this polar ambient / winter synth amalgamation.
Tunnels Under the Forest was a proper dungeon synth release which showcased Curwenius’ ability to create a spectacular and enchanting atmosphere within the tried and true style of previous dungeon synth masters. The album nods to the sounds of artists like Murgrind, and of course the forefather of the genre Mortiis. On Tales of the Frost Curwenius goes by a different name, Eislandschaft, which can be roughly translated to mean ‘icy landscape’. This is an appropriate title for the new album which can find comparisons to works by Vinterriket, Northaunt, Elador and Foglord among others.
While comparisons to these aforementioned artists would be helpful in describing the general direction of Tales of the Frost, it only begins to cut the surface of this brilliantly realized and well-honed release. The album could easily fit into the confines of the polar ambient or winter synth styles, but where it really stands out from the crowd is in its use of straightforward piano sections. Indeed, the album is heavily laden with this neo-classical flavor. Looking no further than the opener, “I Found Them Buried in the Ice”, the piano work sounds and feels as if it is the real deal, not a synthesizer version of a grand piano. One can almost imagine Curwenius sitting behind a beautiful Steinway, in the midst of a deep winter whiteout, winds whipping the fine granules of snow into massive drifts against the window of a cabin, high in the mountains.
The piano work is certainly the highlight of this album for me, but there is still plenty more to be said for Tales of the Frost. When incorporating the more conventional droning synth styles of other winter synth artists, like on the second track “Demented and Lost in the White Plain”, Eislandschaft proves to be a worthy competitor with some of the greatest of the style. The synth notes find that perfect balance between mid-range and a shimmering high-pitched timbre.
By the third track, “There’s Something Out There, In the Middle of the Winter Night”, we are presented with the last element which makes Eislandschaft such a successful project. As the synths take on a more subtle drone style, there are equally subtle field recordings layered in the background. These field recordings, unlike those of many winter synth artists, are perfectly balanced with the track. There is no overbearing attitude forcing this wintry atmosphere upon us. The layers of drone and field recording commingle exquisitely, making for a track which is as incredibly relaxing as it is isolating.
The original release by Eislandschaft in August 2017 would have been the middle of winter for the southern hemisphere, so we need not think of this as a summer release. The October re-release on Lighten Up Sounds gives the physical album the perfect amount of time to find its way around the world, before the winter months of the north commence. The beautifully realized cassette version of this release by Lighten Up Sounds fits the soundscapes splendidly with the cassette, cover-art and Norelco case all in white and the lettering on the cassette itself in a shimmering silver.
Tales of the Frost is a combination of winter-synth, polar-ambient and neo-classical at its absolute finest. The album makes for the perfect background to a cold winter night, nestled in one’s favorite chair in front of a blazing fire. For me, this album will be getting plenty of play through the coming winter months of the northern hemisphere. I would highly recommend the release to anyone with a deep love and respect for the frigid months of winter. Tales of the Frost is close to a perfection of its musical equivalent.
Written by: Michael Barnett